I’m always on the lookout for a Beatles related book that can hold my attention. I’m a huge fan of biographies and first hand experiences as compared to academic studies of the Beatles work and catalog. I’ve been lucky in the fact that Amy Hughes came along and asked if she could review books for this blog since she seems to excel at not only writing reviews, but she also likes reading those books that I can’t seem to get into. Thank you Amy!
The best way to describe this book written by Ron and his younger brother Clint is to imagine if the cast of Leave It to Beaver were a real family in Hollywood! We all know that in his younger years, little Ronny Howard played Opie on the Andy Griffith Show and..
a lot of first generation Beatles fans may remember Clint Howard as the adorable little boy with a pet bear on the TV show Gentle Ben. Star Trek fans will also know Clint from a first season episode where he played a 600 year old alien named Balok (Clint was 7 years old at the time).
And who can forget Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days! Well, these two were actually that cute as children growing up with parents who both put their own acting careers aside to support their two sons’ stardom. Not as stage parents…but as loving, supportive parents who were always there as they juggled auditions, rehearsals and stage time while maintaining a normal, all-American family life. It wasn’t always easy, but Ron and Clint tell the story honestly and with undying love and respect for their parents.
Only twice is the word “Beatles” uttered in this book, once when Ron admits to having donned a Beatles wig in his youth and once when he mentions that he was a fan in the 1960’s, but the lack of mentions of the Fab Four doesn’t stop it from being an exciting story of two brothers who were both the same and very different at the same time…but have a never-ending tight bond. It’s a true tribute to the American family and the more beautiful side of Hollywood fame. And for that reason…
I thought I would take my time writing my review about Eight Days A Week since I know all the Beatles fans will be scurrying out to see the film themselves and every Beatles media person will be in a hurry to post their own review about it. But just when I thought I could take my time, everyone else’s reviews started popping up on my social media timelines. I won’t read other’s reviews before writing my own. I want mine to be fresh. Even in this case, I’ve asked guest review and friend David Thomas to also write a review for the film (it’ll appear after mine on this same post), and I’m not reading his until after I’m done.
So where to begin…
Was it a great movies? Yes, it was awesome! I know people who are already planning to see it multiple times. My thought was that I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD/Blue Ray. It’s absolutely a film you’re going to want to see again and again. Ron Howard did an excellent job of choosing the right footage and cast of characters. He interviewed both Sigourney Weaver and Whoopi Goldberg to talk about what it was like to be a fan in the early years and about their own experiences of seeing the Beatles live in concert as teenagers, two ladies I would never have guessed would have attended. I think my only complaint might be that we never hear Whoopi’s reaction to the actual concert at Shea Stadium.
Beatles fans need to give Ron Howard a lot of credit for not beating the obvious points and trivia into our heads…like the Jesus vs. The Beatles comment from John Lennon. It’s in there, but he keeps it in the flow of the documentary…same as the riot in the Philippines. Mr. Howard brings up early footage of the wives and families with quick glimpses of Ringo, Maureen and Zack, and John, Cynthia and Julian, (where were George and Patty Boyd though?) and then moves on. No Beatles family members were interviewed on camera for this…and that ain’t so bad! It’s keep as documentary about the Fab Four and not the opinions of their feuding family members.
I think my readers get the point without me continuing to ramble on. It’s a great film, wonderful footage and of course, Ron Howard is already talking about doing a second Beatles documentary! Go see the movie or pre-order the DVD.
I rate this movie, 4 out of 4 Beetles!
Now…what does David Thomas think? Here is his review:
Ron Howard’s “Eight Days a Week” – A fan’s perspective
I titled this review “a fan’s perspective” as somewhat of a disclaimer. It is often difficult to know what would be of interest to anyone who has not been as steeped in the history of The Beatles as I have been over the last 50 years. Not that I claim to have seen it all, or that I know it all (far from it); but I also cannot assume that everyone has read all the books and heard all the music that I have over that period of time.
I will say at the start, I think that Ron Howard and the others involved in this film have put together a solid documentary telling the story of The Beatles “touring years”. What many forget (because their music is ubiquitous, and we are still writing, talking, and making movies about them 50 years later) is that they were together in the “John, Paul, George and Ringo” incarnation for only eight years, and performed “live” for only 4 of those. Although the focus of the film is on “touring”, it does give you a good sense of how busy the boys were during those first four years, besides playing live. The stills and film footage have been collected from a multitude of sources around the world, and they vary widely in quality. There are only a couple of “complete” live performances in the movie (i.e., continuous, complete songs), and producer Nigel Sinclair has said that this was because they found it interrupted the flow of the movie. I happen to agree with him, but it doesn’t matter; this is not intended to be a Beatles concert movie. *
What the film does best, is give the viewer a clear picture of the mania that surrounded The Beatles during their career. This movie brings it home in a way that no fan has experienced before.Although I have been a Beatle fan since their first performance on Ed Sullivan’s show in 1964 (the quality of which was strangely poor on the big screen – I thought that would have been one of the better examples), I was too young to have actually attended one of their live concerts in person: I was only 7 when they played their final show in Candlestick Park in 1966.Even if you had the rare privilege of actually attending a Beatles concert in person, that was just one mad night that you will likely remember forever.The Beatles experienced that madness every day of their career, and most intensely during their touring years.I left the theatre wondering how it is that they were not all afflicted with some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A few pieces of footage have been colorized. Some of the concert colorization is nicely done, but the famous NY Pan Am press conference has a rather unnatural look to it. None of this lasts long enough to be a major distraction, however. In some cases audio had to be “synced” to the film from a separate source; i.e., the film may have been a silent film, but the audio was recorded separately, and then combined, or simply brought in from a better source than the one accompanying the actual film. This can get dicey, especially if done poorly. Music producer for the film was Giles Martin, son of The Beatles original producer, George Martin. Giles has worked magic with many previous Beatles projects, including the re-mixing and re-mastering of 1977’s “The Beatles at The Hollywood Bowl”, which was released in conjunction with the film. Giles was quoted in a recent interview as saying “Imagine going to a concert today, recording something on your phone, and then intending to play it in a movie theater,” Martin says. “That would be better than what I was given.” The talented Mr. Martin did a tremendous job of making the music performances not only watchable and listenable, but for the most part, truly enjoyable as well.
The theatre where I saw the film had people queuing up more than an hour before show time in order to get a good seat, and there were 3 showings scheduled that night, 2 of them sold out. I got there an hour before show time, and there were 20 people ahead of me. 20 minutes later, there was a line behind me that went on for as long as I could see. The anticipation in the theatre was visible, although one person I talked to in line had not read or seen anything about the movie prior. He said he “just saw it was The Beatles, and bought a ticket.” The power of the name “Beatles” more than 45 years after they broke up is still truly remarkable. Fans all have their own Beatle experiences, memories, and reasons for seeing a film such as this. And fans will find something to criticize, be it the fact that they have seen some of the footage before, the colorization was not to their liking, the audio was not perfect. In this digital age we take for granted near perfect sound reproduction and 4K resolution. But considering what they had to start with, none of the obvious shortcomings should be enough to keep you from enjoying this movie. To paraphrase Paul McCartney, “it’s the bloody Beatles…shut-up”.
For the non-fan (is there such a thing as a non-Beatles fan?) or even the casual fan, it should serve as a concise historical document, which informs as well as entertains; what more can one ask from a documentary?
If you are fortunate enough to see this in a theatre, it IS being followed with a full 30 minutes of footage from the famous Shea Stadium concert. We have been told that that footage will NOT be on the DVD or blu-ray release. It looks great, is a lot of fun, and even though Giles Martin toned down the screaming considerably in the mix (no small feat), I could see why they said “enough” in August of 1966.